Several area companies were recognized during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Industry of the Year Awards.
Winners were selected by an independent panel of business and industry representatives, said Tim Evans, the chamber’s vice president of economic development.
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is running for lieutenant governor, was the keynote speaker. “Our existing industries are our largest contributors to our (area’s) success,” he said.
Here's a look at the top award winners:
Top large employer: Bitzer US
The Germany-based company, which has operated locally since 2004, has been active in supporting work-based learning students from Flowery Branch and Cherokee Bluff high schools for the past three years, Evans said.
During the pandemic, “the company purchased and donated personal protective equipment for all the students in the welding programs so they could continue their hands-on education,” he said.
“We couldn’t have picked a better spot and North American headquarters than in Hall County,” said Mike Zeiler, Bitzer operations director. “It’s just a great community, a great infrastructure.”
He also thanked the chamber for its support and employees “with the desire to get Bitzer to the position that we’re at.”
Top medium-sized employer: Lasercraft Technologies Inc.
Since 1996, Lasercraft Technologies, makes carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum parts and is a supplier for cutting, forming, machining, welding and assembly.
The company, with a plant at 1233-B Palmour Drive, Gainesville, started with a handful of employees and now has 153 workers.
“It’s a tremendous honor to accept this award on behalf of (the company),” said Scott Coleman of Lasercraft. “If it weren’t for the vision of our ownership and their commitment to success and to taking risks, Lasercraft wouldn’t be where it is today.”
He also spoke of pandemic challenges, “but the entire team has risen to the challenge and exceeded all expectations.”
Top small employer: VDL Industries Gainesville
VDL, which makes stainless, carbon and aluminum equipment for industries, has seen growth even since the awards nomination process and now is technically a medium-sized company with 67 employees.
“They’ve diversified the business, adding new customers and production,” Evans said.
The company has invested heavily in automation and robotics, with more than $15 million spent on its Hall County location.
VDL is part of VDL Groep, headquartered in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
The company opened at 5459 Aloha Way in Oakwood in 2018.
Rick Van Haren, managing director, spoke about the company’s challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and its dedication to its workforce.
“I’m extremely proud to receive this award, as the new kid in town,” he said. “I would really like to thank our customers for their trust and their business.”
2021 Industry of the Year Awards
These awards were handed out at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual event Wednesday, Nov. 17:
Top small employer (1-50 employees): VDL Industries Gainesville
Top medium-sized employer (51-200 employees): Lasercraft Technologies Inc.
Top large employer (201-plus employees): Bitzer US
Workforce Development Recognition: John Soules Foods
Safety Performance Recognition: Kubota Manufacturing Corp.
Corporate Responsibility Recognition: King’s Hawaiian
Environmental Responsibility Recognition: Green Box Mushrooms Inc.